“Life, at its essence, is about time—and white people get more of it than people of color do.”
I was slipping a shiny ring on my finger a few weeks ago when I noticed my hands were looking especially weathered. Sure, I’m outdoors several times a day for dog walks and can’t remember the last time I had a proper manicure, but as I surveyed my wrinkled raisin skin, I made a mental note to do something about that. So it was very timely when the new Nécessaire Hand Retinol Repair Serum ($35) came across my desk. Since using it, my hands are reverting to a more elegant, youthful state. Read on for a dermatologist’s thoughts and an off-label tip that makes this serum a must-have.
“Hands can often age faster than other parts of the body,” says Jeanette Graf, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and anti-aging expert. “Hands get more sun exposure, they are rarely covered by protective clothing or sunscreen, and activities like driving leave hands directly in the sun for a prolonged period.” She notes that wrinkles and dark spots are the most common concerns to pop up in the area—which is where retinol comes in.
What’s in Nécessaire’s Hand Retinol
If you’ve ever used retinol as a part of your facial care routine, you’re likely already well aware that it’s the gold standard for anti-aging ingredients thanks to its ability to lighten discoloration and minimize wrinkles. “Using retinol on hands increases cell turnover and the rate of collagen production, thereby improving the appearance of aging on the hands,” says Dr. Graf.
Nécessaire’s Hand Retinol delivers the active in 0.25 percent concentration—which is enough to do its job, but not so much that it will irritate your skin. “Especially for an area of the body like the hands, where the skin is very delicate, you don’t always have to use a high concentration of pure retinol for it to still be a very effective ingredient,” says Dr. Graf.
In addition to retinol, the formula also includes exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acids, which also get Dr. Graf’s stamp of approval. “Glycolic acid can be a great ingredient for exfoliating the skin of dead skin cell buildup, leaving the hands looking more hydrated and glowing, and allowing other products to better absorb,” she says.
When you’re using aggressive actives like retinol and AHAs, it’s important to replenish the skin—which is where the rest of the formula’s nourishing ingredients come in. It’s got collagen-boosting peptides, skin-strengthening amino acids, anti-inflammatory rose water, and hydrating glycerin, which work together to offset the potentially irritating effects of the actives and keep hands calm and moisturized—even during the dryest months of the year.
One thing to keep in mind: Because this is technically a serum, not a cream, it functions best when layered under a heavier lotion, which will help lock in the actives so they can work to their full potential. And as with any retinol treatment, you’ll want to use SPF 50 during the day, which according to dermatologists (including Dr. Graf) is the best way to protect hands regardless of what else you’re putting on ’em. Opt for a sunscreen/hand cream hybrid to get everything you need from a single application.
What it’s like to use Nécessaire’s Hand Retinol
Nécessaire’s Hand Serum has a milky, semi-viscous texture that smells faintly of rose water (but is actually fragrance-free). Per the instructions, I’ve been using it at night, followed by a cream.
From the first time I slathered it on, my hands became plumper, softer, and smoother. Within a week, they were brighter, too—which clearly meant those AHAs were doing their job.
After coating my hands with the serum each night, I found myself using whatever was left over on my scaly, reptilian feet (pedicure season is over, don’t judge). After only a few days, I was shook at the results. Simply put, it transformed my rough, callused heels into silky skin that I wouldn’t be ashamed to brush against a potential lover. This dual benefit makes The Hand Retinol doubly worth the purchase.